Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Ability to learn new words based on efficient communication between brain areas that control movement and hearing

Date:
July 22, 2013
Source:
King's College London
Summary:
For the first time scientists have identified how a pathway in the brain which is unique to humans allows us to learn new words.

How do we learn words? Learning a language depends on good connection between regions of the left hemisphere of the brain.
Credit: © vlorzor / Fotolia

For the first time scientists have identified how a pathway in the brain which is unique to humans allows us to learn new words.

Related Articles


The average adult's vocabulary consists of about 30,000 words. This ability seems unique to humans as even the species closest to us -- chimps -- manage to learn no more than 100.

It has long been believed that language learning depends on the integration of hearing and repeating words but the neural mechanisms behind learning new words remained unclear. Previous studies have shown that this may be related to a pathway in the brain only found in humans and that humans can learn only words that they can articulate.

Now researchers from King's College London Institute of Psychiatry, in collaboration with Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBELL) and the University of Barcelona, have mapped the neural pathways involved in word learning among humans. They found that the arcuate fasciculus, a collection of nerve fibres connecting auditory regions at the temporal lobe with the motor area located at the frontal lobe in the left hemisphere of the brain, allows the 'sound' of a word to be connected to the regions responsible for its articulation. Differences in the development of these auditory-motor connections may explain differences in people's ability to learn words. The results of the study are published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Dr Marco Catani, co-author from King's College London Institute of Psychiatry said: "Often humans take their ability to learn words for granted. This research sheds new light on the unique ability of humans to learn a language, as this pathway is not present in other species. The implications of our findings could be wide ranging -- from how language is taught in schools and rehabilitation from injury, to early detection of language disorders such as dyslexia. In addition these findings could have implications for other disorders where language is affected such as autism and schizophrenia."

The study involved 27 healthy volunteers. Researchers used diffusion tensor imaging to image the structure of the brain before a word learning task and functional MRI, to detect the regions in the brain that were most active during the task. They found a strong relationship between the ability to remember words and the structure of arcuate fasciculus, which connects two brain areas: the territory of Wernicke, related to auditory language decoding, and Broca's area, which coordinates the movements associated with speech and the language processing.

In participants able to learn words more successfully their arcuate fasciculus was more myelinated i.e. the nervous tissue facilitated faster conduction of the electrical signal. In addition the activity between the two regions was more co-ordinated in these participants.

Dr Catani concludes, "Now we understand that this is how we learn new words, our concern is that children will have less vocabulary as much of their interaction is via screen, text and email rather than using their external prosthetic memory. This research reinforces the need for us to maintain the oral tradition of talking to our children."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by King's College London. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. López-Barroso D, Catani M, Ripollés P, Dell'Acqua F, Rodríguez-Fornells A, de Diego-Balaguer R. Word learning is mediated by the left arcuate fasciculus. PNAS, 2013 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1301696110

Cite This Page:

King's College London. "Ability to learn new words based on efficient communication between brain areas that control movement and hearing." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 July 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/07/130722152735.htm>.
King's College London. (2013, July 22). Ability to learn new words based on efficient communication between brain areas that control movement and hearing. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 27, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/07/130722152735.htm
King's College London. "Ability to learn new words based on efficient communication between brain areas that control movement and hearing." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/07/130722152735.htm (accessed January 27, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

How Technology Is Ruining Snow Days For Students

How Technology Is Ruining Snow Days For Students

Newsy (Jan. 25, 2015) — More schools are using online classes to keep from losing time to snow days, but it only works if students have Internet access at home. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Weird Things Couples Do When They Lose Their Phone

Weird Things Couples Do When They Lose Their Phone

BuzzFeed (Jan. 24, 2015) — Did you back it up? Do you even know how to do that? Video provided by BuzzFeed
Powered by NewsLook.com
Smart Wristband to Shock Away Bad Habits

Smart Wristband to Shock Away Bad Habits

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Jan. 23, 2015) — A Boston start-up is developing a wristband they say will help users break bad habits by jolting them with an electric shock. Ben Gruber reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Amazing Technology Allows Blind Mother to See Her Newborn Son

Amazing Technology Allows Blind Mother to See Her Newborn Son

RightThisMinute (Jan. 23, 2015) — Not only is Kathy seeing her newborn son for the first time, but this is actually the first time she has ever seen a baby. Kathy and her sister, Yvonne, have been legally blind since childhood, but thanks to an amazing new technology, eSight glasses, which gives those who are legally blind the ability to see, she got the chance to see the birth of her son. It&apos;s an incredible moment and an even better story. Video provided by RightThisMinute
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins